The Clinton Aura and the Pending Rise of Democratic Meanness

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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  1. Avatar MFarmer
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    I was just preparing to write a short post on Clinton. I agree, he’s skillful, but my point is that so much has been made of his skills, I now notice he’s playing the role of Bill Clinton, the skillful politician, and he comes across as a caricature of himself, so I don’t know how effective he is except the pleasure you get from, like, watching Jagger play Jagger, or Sam Donaldson playing Sam Donaldson.Report

  2. Avatar North
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    Ah Hillary. God (Goddess?) damn Mark Penn to consultant hell. And damn her and Bill for not noticing his incompetence. Can you imagine how different things would be with a President Hillary, VP Obama and First Husband Bill running round?
    My personal guesses: healthcare reform would have been passed by July (don’t have a clue what it would have looked like but you can be sure that Congress wouldn’t have been able to write it all by themselves like the did HCR); we’re be up to our ears in a rip roaring fight over torture that will have been going on probably since January and republicans would not be waxing nostalgic for Bill; they’d be too busy fuming over all the ways he’d be inventing to drive them into foaming apoplexy from the first Husbands’ office.Report

    • Avatar 62across in reply to North
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      @North, I’m a big fan of Hillary too, but there’s just no way things would have gone the way you are imagining. The Republicans would have been just as intransigent, the Blue Dogs would have only been slightly more cooperative with Bill strong-arming them, the Dems in Congress would have been pissy as hell with HRC inserting herself into HCR and the news would have been 24/7 reruns of Monica and Vince Foster.

      I actually think that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is one of Obama’s greatest moves and we haven’t seen her best work there yet.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to 62across
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        “I actually think that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is one of Obama’s greatest moves and we haven’t seen her best work there yet.”

        There’s no there there, which in this case isn’t Hillary’s fault as much as Obama’s. Obama wants to avoid engaging foreign policy as much as he can get away with, which cuts down severely the maneuvering room for any Secretary of State.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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      “My personal guesses: healthcare reform would have been passed by July (don’t have a clue what it would have looked like but you can be sure that Congress wouldn’t have been able to write it all by themselves like the did HCR)”

      Maybe, but it’s at least as likely that it wouldn’t have passed at all. We would see more debate over stimulus and quasi-stimulus than health care.

      And Congress would look a little different as well. I don’t think D’s and independents would be as motivated to vote for Hillary, leading to smaller majorities.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Koz
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        @Koz, It passed eventually (despite your adamant predictions to the contrary) with Obama asleep at the switch for half a year dreaming of GOP cooperation that he was never going to get . I doubt that the Clintons would have waited six months playing footsie the the Senate and House minority leadership.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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          You’re not getting the whys and wherefores here. Obama may have been asleep, but that’s not why they needed GOP cooperation.

          You see, in America, just barely, the people are still in charge. And even when they’re not, people still want to pretend they are, for the sake of appearances if nothing else.

          People favor or oppose lots of things the government does, but when push comes to shove they really don’t care. Not enough to spend energy out of their daily routine to advocate to change it. This was different. There’s a majority or substantial minority of otherwise apolitical Americans who’ve been working this issue for 18 months straight.

          Most the time that would end the issue right there. But, if as in the D’s case, they want to push something over the American people they have to get a decent number of Republicans with fingerprints on it 1. to create a sense of inevitability around the whole thing and 2. to spread some “bipartisan” magic pixie dust and try and make it all look pretty.

          The D’s base cares about health care, the American people don’t. Maybe President Hillary Clinton could make the American people care about something they don’t care about in place of what they actually do care about. But it’s a tough sell.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to North
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          @Koz, Funny Koz, the people seemed amiable enough to the idea of healthcare reform when Obama campaigned on it and frankly they seemed amiable enough about it in concept until the specifics were laid out and the sausage making went down. For that matter now that they have the details they only marginally oppose it and certainly oppose repealing it without an alternative to replace it (thus the GOP’s nonsensical repeal & replace kabuki).

          All that aside, however, I fully agree on why Obama was trying to get Republican buy in. What I disagree with was whether he was realistic about his chances. The GOP decided (and stated) early on that they weren’t going to participate in healthcare reform in any form. Obama wasted half a year letting them play him along in bad faith wasting his time and legislative window. I simply doubt that the cynical Clintons would have allowed themselves to be played as saps for as long. A month maybe but six? No. Once Obama gave up courting GOP support (that he was never going to get) and turned his attention to rallying his own party he got his healthcare reform plan. I think a similar dynamic would have occurred in a Clinton administration, but it would have gone faster.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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          “Koz, the people seemed amiable enough to the idea of healthcare reform when Obama campaigned on it….”

          1. All that (or the vast majority of it) was pre-crisis which hit in the latter part of 2008.
          2. People aren’t committed to the vagaries of an idea during a campaign. Things change during the debate of an actual bill.
          3. Ancillary to that, mostly of the campaigning was during primary season when the only people paying attention are Demo’s.

          Btw, you’ve repeated a number of things without really justifying them. “Repeal and replace”? Maybe so, but I don’t know how much any Republicans are actually committed to that. Certainly I don’t know of any Republican who’s gone straight repeal and come out the worst for it.

          There might be some slightly different bill, some other iteration or alternative universe where Obamacare would be popular. Nontheless, it has to be clear that the particular health care track Obama and Democrats in Congress took is wildly unpopular. We could argue about the reasons, but really they don’t make that much difference. What is important is that the American people expected to have a de facto veto somewhere in the legislative process and found out to their shock that they didn’t. The repercussions of that are a big chunk of what we’re seeing today.

          That’s why you’re reading this Hillary counterfactual wrong. Hillary already went through this once. My guess is either she would sell her case to the American people or she’d let the whole thing go.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to North
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          @North, Wildly unpopular? Come now Koz, most polls put HCR’s spread between unfavorable and favorable usually under 10%. It’s by no means popular but wildly unpopular? That’s a touch hyperbolic.

          Repeal and replace is the official GOP talking point. As I recall it’s in the “Pledge to America” and it’s the canned official party jargon. You implicitly admit as such when you note that the GOP doesn’t generally campaign on straight up repeal. Is that sufficient justification?

          Obama never stopped talking about healthcare reform in the general campaign. It was mentioned in every debate, in many of his campaign adds and in most of his sound bites. Even the lowest information American voter knew about it, heck, McCain even accused Obama of planning on socializing the healthcare system. It would take some imagination indeed to write healthcare reform out of

          But at least we agree on this. Hillary would have done it differently. My guess, she’d have passed a somewhat different bill (That she’d have had a more direct hand in writing) much more quickly. Heh and the economy would still be probably around where it is today, there’d still be a GOP favoring election in the making and we’d be talking counterfactuals of if only Obama had been around to go more slowly and make republicans feel included in the process.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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          Yes, wildly unpopular.

          http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/obama_and_democrats_health_care_plan-1130.html#polls

          Let’s also note that these numbers only tell part of the story. It’s not that X% oppose the bill, it’s that some percentage oppose the bill, refuse to acquiesce to it, are willing to spend their own energy to fight it, and are willing to switch their votes on national offices on account of it.

          Why is this difficult? It’s not like this has been flying under the radar.

          Nobody cared about Obama’s campaign promises. Not too many people care about the GOP’s pledge to repeal and replace. They know that the GOP opposes the health care bill. As far as the campaign goes, I’m not even sure you’re right. Bob Cheeks told us here that his candidate has specifically promised repeal without replace. In any case, repeal is going to be hard enough without adding any contingencies to it. I doubt very much if the GOP is committed to those contingencies.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to North
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          @North, That’s a good article. I especially like this part:
          “Democrats’ frustration as they consider these possibilities is understandable. Comprehensive health reform was popular with the electorate before the elections of 2008. Mr Obama won the presidency on a pledge to introduce it. Elements of the reform, tested one at a time, still poll well. The Republicans offer no plausible alternative. In many ways the Democratic reform is a long overdue advance, ending the scandal that the US, alone among advanced nations, fails to provide healthcare to all its citizens.”
          But again I’m not claiming it’s popular, just that it’s not wildly unpopular. If it were wildly unpopular Obama and the Democrats would be scrambling on their own to reform or repeal it.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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          “If it were wildly unpopular Obama and the Democrats would be scrambling on their own to reform or repeal it.”

          Exactly. It’s taken while but I think you’re getting it now.

          But, the unpopularity of Obamacare is only half the equation. The “good” half, the reason why it passed, is that the D’s proved, that for the moment at least, that health care funding is a (federal) government responsibility, as a matter of last resort if nothing else. The lib/Demo’s desperately wanted this, and they got it. They’ll try to keep it if they can. We’ll have to see on that.

          Most people, whether they favor or oppose what the government does, are content to ignore it most of the time. This health care bill has been something of exception so far.

          Maybe President Hillary would have gone down the same road, but I don’t think so. If she couldn’t generate more buy-in than President Obama got, she’d find other fish to fry.Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to North
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      @North, NOrthie, you are one optimistic dude and I love that. You will always be a true believer. What makes you think that the two clowns (Bill and Hill) who couldn’t pass commie-healthcare back in the day could do it now? Hillary really, really focuses those of us who are on the right, a whole lot better than BO ever did-until now maybe. Besides Rush’s Operation “…..?” was a brilliant political stroke that never gets any accolades. Besides, Northie, you’re like my pro-union brother, ..the commie-dems have screwed you guys blind and you keep coming back for more!Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Robert Cheeks
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        @Robert Cheeks, Heh, Bob we’re talking about alternative histories here so all of it involves a lot of conjecture. That said what does it say of your own posse of GOP clowns that Bill and Hill ran circles around them for the entirety of the 90’s?
        Belief? I don’t think it requires a leap of faith to think that Hillary, who campaigned with so much less hope & change moondust, would have been a more cynical and ruthless politician than Obama. I’d say that’s a pretty rational conjecture to make.
        I’m a bit skeptical that El’Rushbo really had much impact on that primary. A think Hillary screwed the pooch on that one all by herself by letting that sub-sentient cucumber Penn run her campaign.

        As for being screwed blind, I dunno Bob, I am a pretty open eyed supported of the Dems, warts and all. I don’t subscribe to much of anything with blind faith. Certainly not, for instance, belief in a vengeful entity that rained tribulation on a bunch of Jews for most of prehistory, incarnated himself to do some PR work, got crucified by and then vanished for the next two millennia.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Drew
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    Couldn’t agree more. Not only is there no message that could possibly work for Dems right now given circumstances, I believe there is also no policy course that could have been followed that would have caused the circumstances not be that way. So they pass a $1.2T stimulus that had the right components? Employment is at 8.6%. Whoop-de-frickin-do.

    What it leaves me with a question about is why Obama has been doing so much campaigning, since the carnage is only going to look that much worse, and make him look that much more spent politically as a result, and, as you say, WJC is the far more effective campaigner for the Dem cause at this point. Obama could be saving up his capital looking all Executive-y. So why is he out there so much? The only think I can think of is that he’s got IOUs. Remember superdelegates? Every Democratic member of Congress was one.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Michael Drew
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      @Michael Drew, Disagree slightly Michael… independant wise I agree that the Dems probably were doomed what with the economy, but I think a visible fight with the GOP on some issue could have solidified the base -a lot-.
      Torture for instance, Hillary is a spiteful dame. She’d have lept on the chance to sow confusion in her opponents ranks by blowing the lid off the torture issue methinks. It’d have been visceral revenge for all the investigations they unleashed on her back in the day. I imagine she’d have raised hell with all that and without any of the peace love and postpartisan promises Obama rode in on. With a big fight her base might have been solidified which would make a really big diff in a midterm election.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to North
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        @North, Whatever you say. I guess I kind of wasn’t second-guessing events that were determined most of a year before the events that determined the conditions under discussion. Just saying starting in Jan 09, was there a route to a significantly different outcome? I don’t think so. A big torture fight would’ve been interesting, but I don’t think it does much at the ballot box. The Democratic base doesn’t turn out in midterms when the Dems hold office. You think they would have because of torture investigations? You think her version of HCR doesn’t produce a backlash? I don’t see it.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Michael Drew
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          @Michael Drew, Perhaps I haven’t seen enough Dem incumbent elections Michael, but my impression of the left this year is they’re deeply unmotivated because Obama’s been making kissy noises at the moderates and right wingers ever since he got elected and has been mightily slapped for his efforts. I’d think that a furious high profile red meat battle would rally them.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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          @Michael Drew,

          That’s cuz there have not been many comparable elections. Check out this chart from wkpd. It goes year, president, party of prez, change in House for prez’s party, change in Senate for prez’s party.

          2002 George W. Bush R R+8 R+2
          1998 Bill Clinton D D+5 D-0
          1994 Bill Clinton D D-54 D-8
          1990 George H. W. Bush R R-8 R-1
          1986 Ronald Reagan R R-5 R-8
          1982 Ronald Reagan R R-26 0
          1978 Jimmy Carter D D-15 D-3
          1974 Richard Nixon R R-48 R-4
          1970 Richard Nixon R R-12 R+1
          1966 Lyndon B. Johnson D D-48 D-3
          1962 John F. Kennedy D D-4 D+2
          1958 Dwight D Eisenhower R R-48 R-12
          1954 Dwight D Eisenhower R R-18 R-2
          1950 Harry S Truman D D-28 D-5
          1946 Harry S Truman D D-54 D-12
          1942 Franklin D. Roosevelt D D-45 D-8

          This is the first midterm election for a newly elected Democratic president. Comparable years are 1994, 1978, 1966, 1962, 1950. The Democratic presidents who have done the best in their first midterms have been JFK and Jimmy Carter. Do they fit the models of fire-breathing partisans using red meat to fire up their base? The best a Democratic president has done in a midterm in recent decades is 1998, when Bill managed to gain 5 seats. That was in a sense a red-meat election, but it was red meat being thrown by the GOP against Clinton, which their base failed to pick up, and voters were generally turned off not motivated by it, turning out at a rate lower than any but one national election since 1960. Moreover, the economy was booming, and the Congress was in Republican control, making it a non-candidate for comparison to this year.

          Democrats are extremely unmotivated because there is nothing for them to rally against at this time, in some cases because the president’s policies haven’t transformed the world in the way they might have imagined, and because they have far more immediate concerns than reinforcing what they thought was a message they sent in the last election. Republicans have absolutely nothing but targets to aim at, and a pervasive sense that they are underrepresented in government at this time (which they are). It’s impossible to say what Hillary Clinton would have done, but I have a hard time seeing how making apolitical show of torture inquiries and being more confrontational with Republicans would have changed these dynamics much. I think you vastly overestimate the number of people on the Democratic side who are engaged at that level of discernment and are considering (much less planning on going through with) withholding their votes as a result, and underestimating the magnitude of the reaction to Obama and the Democratic record this term on the other side. The Democratic base isn’t turning out because the guy they put in power is still there and not up for reelection, so where’s the need? That’s why the president is going to campuses saying, it’s important that you vote. Every vote counts, but the number of people who would consider voting Democratic who are withholding their vote on account of his conciliatory approach, or who would be in play if there were more red meat in the ring is quite small.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Michael Drew
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          @Michael Drew, That sounds pretty convincing to me Michael. At least as a macro-political explanation for the overall electoral environment. Though I still feel that different performance by Obama could have made a difference on the margins.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to North
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        @North, This here is what I think is behind Dems’ lack of enthusiasm: http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/weigel/archive/2010/10/25/young-liberal-not-sure-about-voting.aspx

        The people who put him in office just aren’t engaged enough to remotely counteract the wave who are motivated to give him a “Whoopin'” It’s not dissatisfied libs withholding their votes.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to Michael Drew
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      I think Mark is overrating Bill Clinton as a politician but underrating him as an executive. Neither one of them had any real big ticket successes (except for welfare reform and that was forced on Clinton). Nonetheless, Clinton was clearly engaged on the job whereas Obama has more or less checked out, and I don’t think there’s 1 in 5 liberals who have an appreciation for the consequences of that.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Michael Drew
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      @Michael Drew, I don’t see that. As far as the economy is concerned, the message is long-term stability.
      You can take a look at this, and there’s some interesting numbers in there.
      Defense spending — 65% of the money spent in the first year, 23% the second year, and 9% in the third.
      Highway spending — 27% spent the first year, 41% the second year, and 16% the third.
      Water projects — 4% spent the first year, 20% the second year, and 30% the third.
      A lot of the stimulative effect from the stimulus package has yet to arrive, but it will.

      I can’t think of any other big ticket item in the public consciousness, other than health care reform, and people already know which side of the fence they sit on with that one.
      You can try to make children with overbites a campaign issue if you want to, but people are going to care about those kids only so much before a mine collapses somewhere.
      The other issue that stands out as obvious is productivity vs. obstructionism. Do you want your representative to actually perform work, or to simply reject the legislative process?
      When you’re hungry, you don’t have to look for a magic bean. Any old beans will do.Report

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